Most neutral observers believe that the UFC has the best mixed martial arts fighters in the world under contract. Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s strongman president, believes the fighters in his MMA organization are tougher and has made an outrageous challenge to prove it.
Kadyrov, who in 2007 succeeded his late father, Akhmat Kadyrov, as the country’s ruler, has created an MMA fight league that he calls “Akhmat MMA.”
He spoke about MMA, and allegations of human rights abuses, in a chilling profile done by David Scott that will debut on HBO Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.
“Sooner or later, I think we will prove we have the best fighters,” Kadyrov told Scott.
He believes that Chechens, who grew up fighting in wars, are tougher than others and will prove that in MMA. He issued an appalling challenge to the UFC to pit its fighters against the Chechens.
Kadyrov imagines a fight in which judges aren’t necessary.
“We propose that UFC and Akhmat face off in a tournament,” Kadyrov said to Real Sports. “And we’ll see who has the strongest fighters. I think it would be quite a spectacle. They would fight to the end. A fight to the death.”
Obviously, that’s not going to happen. Death isn’t unfamiliar to any Chechen man, though, and having been through the horrors of war, Kadyrov believes that they have a resolve that few other fighters do.
Most Chechen boys see the impact of war up close from an early age. Kadyrov himself was a soldier when he was 15 and said he’s seen military action.
“Yes, I’ve been fighting since I was 15,” Kadyrov told Scott. “I know what war is. I’m an excellent soldier and a good strategist. I love to fight. I was born and raised in war. To die in battle would be my greatest joy.”
Khusein Khaliev, a 28-year-old lightweight, is 17-1 and has fought in the World Series of Fighting (now known as the Professional Fighters League). He’s lived with war his entire life.
“I saw the bombings,” he said, according to the HBO report. “I saw dead bodies on the ground. All the buildings around here were completely destroyed. There wasn’t a single apartment that wasn’t hit by a rocket.”
Those memories are with him as he prepares for a fight.
When I’m prepping for a fight, I tell myself my opponents haven’t seen what I’ve seen,” he told Real Sports. “I was made tough by war. I think no matter how hard they try they can’t get that tough.”
It is a chilling, frequently appalling, profile of one of the world’s most dangerous men.